Friday, February 19, 2010

Agape, or, Food as Love

I admit it, I am addicted to the Food Network. When it comes to TV viewing, I think most of us want some kind of instant gratification. Some of us want a one hour who-dunnit, while others want laughter to end all domestic chaos in under half an hour. That's how fast I want hot, healthy, and yummy meals served up in colorful bowls on immaculate kitchen countertops. Cooking shows fulfill my need to feed. When I watch Rachael Ray, Claire Robinson, or Bobby Flay create a dish so appetizing that I can nearly smell its fragrance from my living room, I am transported to an imaginary land where I, too, can whip up such a delicious feast. Said feast will then bring me and my family both good health and gastronomic delight -- all in 30 minutes or less!

Naturally, my reality is far from my TV ideal, even if it is close to my TV. Meals at my house are often paper-plated straight from the microwave and eaten in front of a Food Network show. Yet I long to fill my family's plates with a rainbow of fresh fruits and vegetables, exotic grains, and slow-cooked sauces. Ironically, my picky eaters wouldn't eat most of the elaborate homemade meals I envision. Yet the mindset that artfully prepared food is lovingly prepared food persists.

I'm not alone in that perception. When I entered the search terms "love and food" into the library catalog, it yielded 138 titles. A few notable books on that list were Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love by Lara Vapnyar and The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove by Cathy Erway. No Reservations starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart and Moonstruck with Nicholas Cage and Cher are two DVD favorites. Julie & Julia and Like Water for Chocolate celebrate that food/love connection in both print and film.

A few nights ago, I watched Babette's Feast on DVD for the fifth or sixth time.

This beautiful film centers upon an agape, or love feast - a meal shared as a sign of love and fellowship. Meticulously prepared by the title character, the feast elevates food to an art form and an expression of unconditional love. If you're looking for a film that feeds your need to feed, I highly recommend it. However, if you are looking to share the spirit of agape with others but, like me, can't serve up gourmet every night -- bring bagels to a meeting or contribute to a bake sale. Food can be art, but as an expression of love, it doesn't have to be.


YLH Gus said...

The agape phenomenon manifests itself in the workplace when folks bring donuts or goodies on birthdays, aniversaries, etc. Nobody's done it here in a while tho, maybe I should step up.

Years ago I never would have watched a cooking show, but my wife has shown me they can be pretty entertaining. BTW, what's for dinner...?


ksm said...

I have always interpreted agape in the opposite sense - love as food. :) But, as someone with innumerable food allergies and sensitivities, I find great pleasure in cookbooks, cooking shows, and partaking in a meal with others even if I have to just watch them eat all the stuff I have to avoid. Everyone I know and love keeps recommending Babette's Feast to me, so that's it, I need to get a hold of that now, thanks for the reminder!

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